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Narcolepsy higher risk in children who had swine flu jab

28th February 2013

New concerns have been raised about a link between flu vaccine and narcolepsy in children in the UK.

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A study published online in the BMJ said that children in the UK who were given the swine flu vaccine Pandemrix in 2009-10 were 14 times more likely to have narcolepsy than other children.

The research team from the Health Protection Agency, Addenbrooke’s Hospital and Papworth Hospital (both in Cambridge) and University College London set out to evaluate the risk after vaccination in England.

Having highlighted a higher prevalence of the sleep disorder they have now called for further research, saying the risk may be overestimated by more rapid referral of vaccinated children.

As a result of the 2009 flu pandemic, the A/H1N1 virus spread rapidly, resulting in millions of cases and 18,000 deaths in 200 countries.

The vaccine Pandemrix was introduced in England in October 2009 and by March 2010, 24% of healthy children aged under 5 and 37% aged 2-15 in a risk group had been vaccinated.

In August 2010, concerns were raised in Finland and Sweden about a possible association between narcolepsy and Pandemrix.

This was followed in 2012 by a study from Finland that reported a 13-fold increased risk in children and young people aged 4-19.

The Department of Health said the decision to recommend that children received the vaccine during the flu pandemic was based on evidence available at the time, along with the advice from the European Medicines Agency.

A spokesman added: “We keep all emerging evidence under review.”

 

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